Honestly, nothing really went right from the start. It was 30°C, we were sweating like dogs waiting in those starting pens.
Six months ago my goal was to run 2km and get through NMT. Six weeks ago my goal was to finish the Auckland marathon. On Saturday it was to finish Singapore in 4:15.
At 6:30pm we finally got the gun, but the streets were narrow for the first 6km. I was boxed in the crowd and stuck running ~7 min kms, about a minute slower than I needed. The aid stations were also understaffed so I was losing about a minute at each one waiting for water. By 8km I was already way behind my target pace and had given up hope of hitting 4:15.
Around 15km my foot started hurting. I had a more cushioned shoe for this run so wasn’t expecting foot problems. I figured it was only a niggle and I’d run through it. The opposite happened and it got worse real quick, by 18km I was convinced I had a stress fracture or at least a really f*cked up foot. It hurt to put weight on it and even walking felt like I was standing on a screwdriver. I also had a new fuelling strategy for this run and was already feeling empty. At the Auckland marathon I remembered feeling super strong at 21km and still struggled, here I was pretty much out of gas at 18km with a shit foot. That’s when I got that horrible feeling that I was in trouble and probably wouldn’t be finishing.
Times like this are when you find out who you really are. 24km left, I knew I could will myself on one foot through 5km and maybe even 10km, but 24km was wishful even on a perfect day. That’s a real shitty feeling to have out there. No way I trained all those hours and came all the way to Singapore for it to end like this.
I thought back to a photo on my phone. “Keep going and it might hurt for a week. Quit now and it will hurt for a lifetime.” I knew if my legs really had nothing left, I would’ve fallen over by now. If it turns out you can’t do it then you can’t do it, but giving up now is QUITTING! Does a TSW Warrior ever quit? F*ck no. So let’s f*cking go.
To keep my foot alive as long as possible I had to run differently, so I now had this new flailing arms penguin style of running which looked ridiculous but it took weight off my foot and at least I was moving. Not only was I moving, I was passing a ton of people. Half the race was already walking. “Look at all these walking motherf*ckers” I kept saying to myself. “You deserve to be in front of them. Keep going!” It was really dark and angry talk but it kept me moving. I just had to get to halfway. Maybe it would be a new race after that.
When I got 21km I wasn’t feeling any better but wasn’t feeling much worse either. I told myself to get to the aid station at 22km and you can walk through it while you drink. I did that for all the aid stations up to 30km; run 2km, walk through the aid station. To be honest that part of the race is a blur, I don’t remember it well. It felt like a miracle when I got to 28km. I said, if you make it to 30km, you’re allowed to walk to 31. I made it to 30.
By the time I got to 31km, things were getting pretty depressing on the course. It felt like every km someone was collapsing or passing out, people had to stop and hold them until medical arrived. In Auckland I only saw one medical tent the whole race, here they had them every 2km. I wondered why there were so many and then it became clear. The heat and humidity was really f*cking people up. Medical was working overtime running around with wheelchairs and ice. Even one of the pacers fainted. One dude dropped and started throwing up right in front of me. I was thinking farking hell just let me finish this thing so I can go home alive 😂
Using my “run 2km, walk through the aid station” strategy I made it to 37km. This felt like an early miraculous victory because 5km left meant I was definitely going to finish. Then we were all punched in the face by the huge hill between 37 and 38 kms. I’m not sure who designed the course, but a hill that size after running 5 hours in 30 degree heat is just a big f*ck you to everyone. Still, I penguin flopped up there at full speed just to give a big f*ck you right back.
After conquering that hill I was near 38km and could sense the finish. The mood on the course was still super glum at this stage, probably 75% of people walking. I was still running but barely moving faster than the people walking around me.
Then around 39km one guy running in front of me suddenly stopped and put his hands on his knees. Just out of instinct I hit him on the shoulder and said ‘No no no no c’mon we’re nearly there!’ His head shot back up and he started running again beside me.
At the 40km aid station I stopped to slug two cups of water, when I was done I saw that same guy waiting for me. He motioned his head at me to get moving. He had a battle face on and I nodded and said Ok let’s fucking go then.
We took off and started pacing each other, faster than I’d run all race, probably passed 100 people. It felt like we were the only ones still running. I was even running (semi) normally now, my foot was numb anyway but now all the pain had magically disappeared. We pushed to 41km, there were a few spectators cheering which gave us a boost, my foot buckled a little but he said C’mon! and we pushed again to 42km. As we passed the marker I said ‘200 metres!’ and he puffed ‘Let’s do it let’s do it let’s do it.’ As we turned the corner we saw the finish in the distance, picked up our legs and crossed the finish line side by side. It took us a while to catch our breath but we shook hands and hugged one out while we enjoyed the moment with a few others. The race was mostly miserable but sharing that last bit of brotherhood and magic with a stranger was something to remember.
TSW puts us through the darkest parts of hell, but remember it’s not for nothing. There are stripes to be earned from going through hell. What TSW did for me is it taught me how to suffer. I suffered more than I thought possible, and I’m still here. Wearing that badge is something I’ll call on for the rest of my life. With that badge, suffering through a 5 hour run is a f*cking appetizer.
Before TSW, I was living an easy happy life and, if not for TSW, I’d still just be living that easy happy life now. That person was soft. He wouldn’t even think about running a marathon. This new guy ran two of them in 6 weeks. When the days are really dark, remember there is a silver lining in this pain, it is teaching you something, preparing you for something bigger. Nobody achieves anything worthwhile without pain.
NMT is already the first marathon in your journey, and the most difficult one. When you come out the other side of this, nothing will be too hard, nothing will be able to stop you. People will wonder how you got so strong, but even if you try to tell them, they’ll never know. Only we will.
You’re already stronger than you thought you could be. Don’t give up. You’re almost there. Be ready for it. Good things are coming.